Monday, 6 December 2021

The Calling

 

“Father … I want to become a priest!”

Normally such words would gladden the heart of any priest. To learn that someone has received the calling from God and is only too willing to respond. But this was not the reaction of Father Ignatius at Norman’s sudden announcement.

“Father … did you hear me?” continued Norman sitting uncomfortably in the armchair in the priest’s office. Father Ignatius sat back behind his desk and said calmly:

“When did you decide that this is what you wish to do?”

“It took a long time … I didn’t decide as such … I felt, and still feel and believe, that God is calling me to the priesthood …” stammered Norman.

“At first I was confused … this can’t be, I thought. I tried to get the thought out of my mind … but it kept coming back … stronger than ever … I know deep in my heart that this is what I have to do … God is asking me to be a priest …”

“Have you discussed it with Helen?” enquired the priest.

“No … no … I can’t” replied Norman looking down to the ground, “not yet anyway … I thought I’d talk to you first … I … I … I wanted your opinion, and advice.”

“Norman … you realize it is impossible for you to become a priest!” Father Ignatius said as gently as he could.

“Just because I’m married … why should that stop me becoming a priest?” interrupted the young man, “it happens in other denominations …”

“I know it does,” Father Ignatius continued, “and perhaps at some date in the future it may well happen in our Church too. I don’t know about that … But right now, a married man with children, as in your case, cannot become a priest …”

“But … I feel God is calling me …” interrupted Norman.

“That may well be true … Again, I don’t know about that. Would God invite you to be a priest as a married man …”

“I’ve often felt drawn to the priesthood …” Norman interrupted once more.

“Do you remember Father, all those years ago; when Helen and I came to tell you we wished to marry? You jokingly asked me whether I wish to become a priest instead! And you asked her whether she’d like to be a nun rather than be shackled with me …”

The priest smiled.

“And do you remember even earlier than that … well before I even met Helen … you suggested to me once that I might consider priesthood …”

“Yes … I always thought you’d be well suited to the vocation. You would have made a good priest.” Father Ignatius agreed.

“But at the time I was not ready … somehow I believed that’s not what God wanted. Perhaps I was mistaken … or just did not listen to God’s prompting. Then I met Helen and we fell in love. But now I’m sure that’s what God is asking me to do. I’ve been a Deacon for four years … yet it’s not enough … I want to be a priest.”

“Why is it not enough?” asked the priest gently.

“I don’t know … I just feel and believe that’s what God wants of me … At first I thought it was my mind making things up. I dismissed the idea believing it to be impossible … but it keeps coming back …

“Why can’t I be a priest and married … St Peter was married was he not? He was good enough to be chosen by Jesus … why not me?”

Father Ignatius ignored the question.

“How do you envisage being a priest and married at the same time, with your family responsibilities?” he asked Norman.

“I don’t know …” mumbled the distraught young man.

“I’ve thought it over again and again. You know in the Bible Jesus saying in Matthew Chapter 16 Verse 24; I looked it up … ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me’.

“I suspect Peter and the other disciples must have left their families behind to follow Jesus wherever He went …”

“And is that what you’re planning to do? Leave Helen and the children to fend for themselves?” Father Ignatius asked in his quiet and calm tone of voice.

“No … of course not. I couldn’t do that.” retorted Norman, “I love my wife and children. I couldn’t possibly leave them … That’s why I came to you. I’m all confused. I couldn’t leave my job and responsibilities … the house is not fully paid for … I … I … I don’t know what to think anymore …

“These thoughts have been torturing me for some time now. I know and understand my responsibilities as a husband and a father … but I firmly believe that I am called to the vocation …”

“I believe you are …” replied the priest surprisingly.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do.” he continued, “I’ll discuss what you’ve told me with Monsignor Thomas at Bishop’s House. I’ll seek his advice. In the meantime I suggest you pray some more about this, and discuss it with Helen … I’ll pray for you too, and leave it in God’s hands to show us how to proceed.”

All this happened a long time ago. The Church understood and sympathized with Norman but could not accept him as a priest. He eventually left and became a priest in another denomination, supported by his wife and children. Father Ignatius still keeps in touch.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

... perhaps they don't believe in eternity


I look around me at a world in turmoil, confusions, and contradictions. A fast moving, ever changing world where there's no room for planning since plans change as soon as they're being planned.

Yet, despite this fluid kaleidoscope of emotions and fluctuating views and opinions, I see an undercurrent of materialism such as history has probably never experienced before.

Consumerism seems at its highest point ever with people wanting more and more of everything and wanting it now rather than having to wait. 

Gone are the days when an advert would imply that you will feel good if you were to purchase a certain product or avail yourself to a service. Now the message seems to be that unless you have this product or service then you're considered a failure, a lesser being, and a reject. Subliminally perhaps, but the message is still there. You can see it in the eyes of the actors promoting the product they sell.

I feel that hope has gone, or perhaps diminished, in the hearts of many. Our lifespan could be in the region of 70 to 100 years if we are so fortunate. But this is a mere blink of an eye compared to eternity.

Could this be the reason why so many are intent on cramming so much in the little time allotted to them?

Could it be ... perhaps that they don't believe in eternity? For many, the belief is that once we die that is the end of everything?

Reminiscent of the phrase from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."

Or, as contradicted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:32, "if the dead are not raised to life, then, as the saying goes, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die.' "

The choice is an individual one for each one of us to make.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Fully God Fully Man

 

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our Christian faith is understanding how Jesus was/is fully God and fully man. 

Jesus is the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity, another mystery, consists of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

All three are God. But each one is a separate living being. The Father is not Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father or Jesus the Son. Yet each one is separately God.

I accept it is difficult to understand. But let us persevere and try to consider how Jesus is both fully God and fully man; then perhaps some clarity may appear.

Jesus did not start to exist when He was born on earth by the Virgin Mary. He always existed as a Spirit, totally independent from God, Whom we call the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was, and is, a Spirit and a living God that always existed.

When He was born on earth He took the form of a human being. He was made just like us, flesh, blood, bones and so on. He was fully human from that moment of His birth onwards. And He was fully God from the beginning of time. As long as God and the Holy Spirit existed, Jesus also existed as a Spirit and a God.

When He walked this earth, the body that we saw and recognised as Jesus was fully a human being. Just like us. But the Spirit, the soul, within that body was Jesus, who existed since the beginning of time.

When Jesus performed miracles it was the Divine Godship within Him, His Spirit, who performed the miracles which the human body was seen to perform.

His physical body, which was seen by the people of the time, was a human body like ours with the same feelings, and emotions that we too experience in life.

Let us look at this from a personal basis. We are spirits. Yes, you and me, and everyone else are spirits. We sometimes call this spirit our soul. Although this is not strictly accurate. It is not our soul as such because more accurately we are a soul. It would be more accurate to say that we are a soul, a spirit, and we have a body within which we inhabit.

In a way, we are no different to Jesus in that respect. We are a soul, a spirit, within a human body. 

The very important difference is that we are not a living God, and our spirit has not always existed. It started to exist when we are created by God at conception. And it will continue to exist when our human body dies.

Our spirit, or soul, does not die when our physical body dies and disintegrates. Our spirit/soul continues to live on for eternity.

When we hurt our body, say we hurt our finger or hand, it is the human body, the flesh and bones etc ... which feels the pain and reacts to it.

But when we act in life, when we decide what to do or say, or how we behave, it is us as a soul who decides how to behave. Our bodies may take the actions required, but it is us the "soul/spirit" who controls the action.

That is how Jesus was fully God and fully human. His Spirit was/is an ever existing Godly soul, and His body was fully human. Suffering the pains and agonies of torture and beatings when He died on the Cross. He felt every pain that was inflicted on Him just like any human would have done. Yet, His Divine Spirit accepted it all for our sake. 

A mystery we will never fully understand in this life.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Hairy Jehoshaphat

 

Hairy Jehoshaphat was crazy. He did not know he was crazy. But he was crazy in a mild and positive way. You see, crazy is relative. And Hairy Jehoshaphat did not have any relatives to compare him with. So he did not compare himself to anyone, and everyone compared him to the norm without knowing who Norm is or was. Because in reality there is no Norm. 

What is normal? Is it something that most people have or do? Can we say it is normal to be a certain height for instance? But who's to say which height we should be? If we check on a certain number of people we consider normal then what we would have is an average and not a Norm.

So you see, we cannot all agree on what is normal behaviour, or height, or weight, or anything else. It is all a matter of what most people, on average, consider acceptable.

What is crazy to one person is perfectly normal to another. It's all relative.

Hairy Jehoshaphat for instance used to glue some seeds on a plate and then watch the birds trying to peck them off. Is that crazy?

A while later, he took away the plate and scattered seeds on the lawn. The birds would come and eat it.

I asked him about his behaviour and he said he was teaching birds to search and forage for themselves rather than have food ready served on a plate.

He told me he used to go for walks in the forest before the trees got there. I did not believe him, so one day he took me with him. We walked out of town and a few miles out into a large valley sheltered by mountains and a stream. There were no trees at all.

He waved his hand and said, "One day ... all this will be a forest!"

"How do you know?" I asked.

"I read it in the papers," he replied, "it said this land has been ear-marked for new tree plantations." Would you call that crazy, or well-informed?

I visited him once and he was busily fixing a notice at the top rung of a ladder with the word "STOP". Before I said anything he remarked, "I keep going up and then fall off!"

On the day of my visit he was burning a lot of garden stuff like old bush and tree cuttings and making a lot of smoke. I asked him if the neighbours mind all this smoke everywhere.

He said, "my grandfather smoked a pipe all his life until he was 94 years old!"

"What happened next?" I asked.

"He lost his pipe!" replied Jehoshaphat.

He asked once if I believed in reincarnation. I told him I did not wish to come back as a tin of condensed milk.

He then said he wished to come back as a hyena. I asked him why, and he replied, "then I'd be laughing!"

One day he showed me his herb garden. He said he plants all his herbs in alphabetical order. Crazy or what?

I asked him, "where do you find the time?"

He replied, "it's there next to the Parsley, Rosemary and Sage." He then chuckled and added, "Simon and Garfunkel got their alphabet wrong in Scarborough Fair!"

Maybe he is not that crazy after all.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

She left me ...

 

It's terrible. Terrible I tell you. I never expected it, Terrible, what shall I do?

Sit down, calm down. Take a deep breath. Tell me what happened.

It's awful. She left me. My wife left me ...

What do you mean?

She just got up this morning and left me. And she took my sausages.

Your sausages?

Yes, she left me and took my sausages.

I don't understand.

What is there not to understand? After all these weeks of marriage it is all over. My wife left me and took my sausages.

It's the sausages bit I don't understand.

They were in the fridge. A new recipe I just invented. I was going to try them out on my customers today and now they're gone. She may even sell them to another butcher.

I understand ... I think ...

It's terrible. A disaster. My sausages are gone. What shall I do? My life is over.

Ehm ... if you don't mind me saying so ... you seem more worried about your sausages than your wife leaving you.

What do you mean?

Tell me ... if your wife had left you this morning but not taken the sausages how would you feel?

Eh? I don't understand ...

Do you love your wife?

Of course I do!

Do you love your sausages?

Yes, of course I do!

Who do you love the most? Your wife, or your sausages?

... ... ... ... ... I'm thinking ... ... ... I'm thinking ... ... ...

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

In the middle of the night

 

In our back garden we have security lights that come on whenever they detect any movement. They are very useful for me to determine when I am out in the garden. The lights sense my presence and come on. I see the trees, and bushes and flowers and know I am in the garden. A fact that could not be determined if we did not have security lights.

I once found myself in a dark broom cupboard. We have now fitted security lights there too in case I enter said enclosure by mistake.

I know what you're thinking: "How big is the broom cupboard?" 

Not very big really. One person size. One person wide, high and deep. If you enter the cupboard you stop because you cannot go any further. You have to take the broom and vacuum cleaner out. Also, now you hit your head on the very bright security lights.

Anyway, we have security lights in the garden and the other night they came on suddenly. I looked out the kitchen window and could see no one there. Rather foolishly, I put my slippers on and went out to investigate. I should have put on some sturdy shoes instead.

There by the apple tree were two squirrels. They looked at me and did not move. They dared me to react. I stood motionless not wishing to antagonise them in case they rushed towards me and climbed up my legs in search of some nuts or something. I'd read they can be quite vicious when angered.

There was a tennis ball on the ground left there from a previous game. One of the squirrels rushed towards it and hit it so hard it bounced in the air. The other squirrel jumped up and hit it hard in mid-flight. Before I knew it they were playing tennis.

Not with tennis rackets, you disbelieving lot; with their paws. They were jumping in the air chasing the ball. A sort of tennis and soccer football if you like. 

They probably thought it was a giant nut of some sort. Possibly a coconut; I don't know.

I shooed them away by making a noise. They rushed into the bushes. I slowly moved forwards to collect the tennis ball and they came out again. This time accompanied by a fox. We've never had a visiting fox in our garden. Whatever next? 

A whole menagerie of creatures dancing in the moonlight?

I rushed into the house as the security lights went out leaving a full moon in charge of proceedings.


Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Musical Rescue

 

Many years ago, when I was young, I was out climbing the mountain ranges somewhere in Europe. Can't remember where exactly. I used to travel a lot in them days. It could have been in the Alps which stretch across many countries, or it could have been in the Pair 'O Knees.  

Anyway, all I can remember is that I was high up in the mountains, all alone, which is a stupid thing to do when you go up mountains, and it was getting dark and it started snowing .. again.

I was getting colder and colder and I hurried here and there to find some shelter. The blinding snow was making it difficult to see far ahead, and I felt my body freezing from head to toe and all the way up again. A cold frisson of foreboding ran up and down my spine. 

I like that last sentence, "A cold frisson of foreboding ran up and down my spine." I may yet become a literary genius after all. Notice how I said "frisson" instead of shiver. Maybe I was in France after all, or some other French speaking country.

As I was saying, it was getting dark, and cold and very dangerous. I had to find shelter soon. Fortunately, about a hundred yards ahead, up a perilous incline, I saw a hut. Maybe it's some shepherds' shelter, or some small hostel or other. I hope they let me in without a tie!

I struggled up those last few feet and I was at the door of this broken down and abandoned shack. I opened the door against the weight of the snow and got in. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness therein I realised that it was empty save for an Alpine horn left there by its previous occupant. 

A very long conical shaped tube with a large opening at one end like those ancient wind-up record players that had a big horn to amplify the sound. This horn was in two pieces which, when put together, made the whole instrument so big that it would not fit inside the small hut.

An idea came to mind. You know how it is, when desperate you try anything.

I opened the door and slid out the large end of the instrument, then inside the hut I attached the second part. Basically, most of the instrument was outside the hut.

Now, I have never played the Alpine horn before or ever since. I play the harmonica a bit, but I did not have one at the time. Besides, I don't think that playing "Home on the Range" on the harmonica would have carried the sound very far.

I'd seen people playing the Alpine horn on TV. It's one long monotonous sound that carries very far. I believe it was used as a communications system. How difficult would it be to play it?

I blew hard at the mouthpiece end and my ears popped. No sound came out. I tried different lip movements whilst blowing and eventually got a sound ... of sorts.

I persevered in the hope of blowing a Morse S.O.S. message. Do you realise how difficult it is to blow dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot down an Alpine horn?

First you need to fill your lungs with a lot of air to sustain you throughout this long message which should be delivered loud enough down this long pipe to be heard more that three feet away.

Secondly, I have found out to my great chagrin and sartorial cost, that as you blow hard a certain amount of air escapes from another orifice in one's body.

I had to stop and reconsider. I certainly did not want to contribute more to global warming by adding to the malevolent noxious gases already produced by our bovine friends.  

I decided on a strategy of long and slow monotonous sounds. That should attract the attention of any passing mountain goat or ferocious creature.

After about an hour or so of blowing at both ends, I heard a sound outside.

"HELLOOOO !!!" they shouted, "We are the Red Cross!"

 I shouted back, "I GAVE AT THE OFFICE !!!!"

Typical of these people, going out collecting money at a time like this instead of rescuing people stuck in a snowy mountain.

Anyway, they got me home safely even though I had lied about contributing at the office.